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Waitangi Tribunal Members: Introduction
The Waitangi Tribunal is a specialist body, and its members are chosen for their knowledge and experience. A chairperson and up to 20 members may be appointed at any one time, and the chairperson may also appoint a Māori Land Court judge to the position of deputy chairperson. The total membership reflects the partnership of the Treaty of Waitangi through an approximately equal representation of Māori and Pākehā.
Tribunal members are appointed for terms of up to three years and are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Māori Affairs in consultation with the Minister of Justice. The Tribunal and the Waitangi Tribunal Unit have no part in the appointment of new members. Most members work for the Tribunal on a part-time basis only, and their availability to hear a number of claims each year is therefore limited. Members may be reappointed to the Tribunal upon the expiration of their term.
The members constitute a pool from which tribunals of between three and seven members are drawn to hear claims. The term 'Waitangi Tribunal' is used to refer both to the total membership and to the individual Tribunals. Members are appointed to a Tribunal by direction of the chairperson and remain members until the inquiry is completed or they resign.
The chairperson also appoints a presiding officer for each Tribunal. To be a presiding officer, a member must have at least seven years' standing as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. Judges of the Māori Land Court, while not members of the Waitangi Tribunal, may also preside over an inquiry. Once appointed, the presiding officer manages the hearing process.
Each Tribunal has to have at least one Māori member, although generally around half the members are Māori. Usually, a Tribunal has a kaumātua member and, where it is inquiring into historical matters, at least one historian.